Prognostic value of programed death ligand-1 and ligand-2 co-expression in salivary gland carcinomas

Oral Oncol. 2019 Mar:90:30-37. doi: 10.1016/j.oraloncology.2019.01.015. Epub 2019 Feb 1.


Objectives: The aim of the present study was to investigate the molecular basis for the use of immune checkpoint inhibitors to treat salivary gland carcinomas (SGC).

Materials and methods: We examined the clinical and prognostic significance of programed death ligands 1 and 2 (PD-L1 and -L2) expression using immunohistochemistry and in situ hybridization, as well as microsatellite instability (MSI) status using polymerase chain reaction, along with tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs) in 30 cases of SGC.

Results: The SGC cases studied included adenoid cystic carcinoma (AdCC, 36.7%), salivary duct carcinoma (SDC, 26.7%), mucoepidermoid carcinoma (MEC, 23.3%), and carcinoma ex pleomorphic adenoma (CxPA, 13.3%). Either PD-L1 or PD-L2 overexpression was observed in 36.7% patients. PD-L2 expression was associated with reduced disease-specific survival (DSS) and disease-free survival (DFS) (P = 0.0266 and P = 0.0209, respectively). Simultaneous PD-L1 and PD-L2 overexpression was detected in 13.3% of cases, and was correlated with reduced DSS (P = 0.0113). Among non-AdCCs, all cases that developed distant metastasis were positive for PD-L2 (P = 0.001). Cases showing low-TILs that were positive for either PD-L1 or L2 were associated with poor DFS. No MSI was detected in the SGC cases studied.

Conclusion: To our knowledge, this is the first comprehensive study examining PD-L1 and PD-L2 status, MSI status, and TILs in SGC. Our results indicate that the PD-1/PD-L1 or PD-L2 pathway, which is associated with poor clinical outcomes, may provide promising therapeutic targets against SGC in selected patients. Further experimental and clinical studies are encouraged.

Keywords: In situ hybridization; Microsatellite instability; Prognosis; Programed death ligand-1; Programed death ligand-2; Salivary gland cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • B7-H1 Antigen / genetics*
  • B7-H1 Antigen / metabolism*
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / genetics
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lymphocytes, Tumor-Infiltrating / immunology
  • Male
  • Microsatellite Instability
  • Middle Aged
  • Prognosis
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Ligand 2 Protein / genetics*
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Ligand 2 Protein / metabolism*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / immunology*
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / secondary
  • Salivary Gland Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology
  • Young Adult


  • B7-H1 Antigen
  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • CD274 protein, human
  • PDCD1LG2 protein, human
  • Programmed Cell Death 1 Ligand 2 Protein